Chief M.K.O Abiola (G.C.F.R.), was born on the 24th of August, 1937 to the family of Salawu and Suliat Wuraola Abiola, indigenes of Abeokuta, in the defunct Western Region now in Ogun State.
He was the twenty – third (23rd) child and the first to survive infancy period. Hence, the name ‘Kashimawo’ meaning ‘Let’s watch and see,’ given to him at birth. It was not until he was fifteen (15) years old that he was properly named ‘Moshood,’ a Muslim name.
Chief M.K.O Abiola was a successful businessman, publisher, politician and aristocrat of the Egba Clan. He was the 14th Aare Ona Kakanfo (Generalismo) of Yoruba Land.
He was born into a poor family. He received his secondary education at Baptist Boys High School (BBHS), Abeokuta where he won a scholarship to attend the University of Glasgow, Scotland where he bagged a degree in Economics.
With his educational background in Accounting, he easily assumed the position of Deputy Chief Accountant at the Lagos University Teaching Hospital from 1965 to 1967 and Controller of Pfizer Products Limited from 1967 to 1969.
In the same year 1969, he became the Comptroller of International Telephone and Telegraph(I.T.T NIGERIA LTD) where he rose to become the Vice-President I.T.T Africa and Middle-East Branch from 1972 to 1988.
In 1988, Abiola founded and sat as Chairman of Concord Press of Nigeria Limited. Abiola’s ventured into political scene dated back to the Second Republic in the 80’s.
Known for his outspoken no nonsense political stance, he lobbied the United States and several European nations in 1992 demanding reparations for the enslavement of African people and recompense for the fortunes made in harvesting Africa’s raw materials.
Historically, the North and South political dichotomy conflicts have peppered Nigeria, as political power has been held by the North, the Headquarters of the Country’s Military.
Abiola, who came from the Southern District, brought a different perspective to the Country’s political make-up. He cultivated friends from the people of both sides of the North and South and that ultimately proved to be beneficial to him politically aand electorally. By the end of March, 1993, Abiola was chosen by the Social Democratic Party (S.D.P) as its candidate for the Presidential election held on the 12th of June, 1993.
The result clearly showed Abiola to be the winner but the Military junta headed by General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (IBB) went ahead to annul the election claiming that there were irregularities.
Abiola, believing in himself to have been given the mandate by the voters, joined the Campaign for Democracy (C.D) calling on voters to perform acts of civil disobedience in an attempt to reclaim his mandate. The annulment of the election led to series of civil unrest, condemnation and castigation by the citizens at home and abroad of the military government of General Babangida.
Throughout August 1993, Nigeria was paralyzed by series of strikes and unrest which ultimately led to Babangida’s stepping ‘aside’ and handing over to an interim government headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan which was short-lived. In November, 1993, a palace coup led by General Sanni Abacha shoved Shonekan’s illegal government aside.
The resentment against the military grew during the first quarter of 1994 when the Campaign for Democracy (C.D) called for a boycott of elections, demanding that the military relinquish power to Abiola, the presumed winner of the election held on June 12, 1993.
On June 11, 1994, Abiola declared himself President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria before a group of over 3,000 supporters at Epetedo, a suburb of Lagos State. Thereafter, the Military conducted a nation-wide man-hunt and Abiola was arrested on the 23rd of June and was incarcerated.
On the 7th of July, 1998 while in a meeting with U.S delegates in Abuja, Abiola collapsed and died that same day. Medical report revealed he died from heart attack but most Nigerians were of the opinion that he was poisoned. Unfortunately, the mystery surrounding his death has not been revealed till date.
Among notable people that cannot be forgotten in his personal and political career are the late Simbiat Atinuke Abiola, his first wife and strong pillar, also late Kudirat Olayinka Abiola, vocal and outspoken, who supported her husband in the futile efforts at actualizing his mandate but unfortunately she was gruesomely murdered on the street of Lagos by unknown gunmen in 1996.
Dr. Doyin Abiola took charge of Concord Press while the husband was incarcerated. People like late Pa. Anthony Enahoro, late Dr. Beko Ransome Kuti, late Pa Alfred Rewane, late Pa Baba Omojola, late Chief Lamidi Adedibu, late Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, Prof. Wole Soyinka, and many others were also in the struggle for the enthronement of democracy in the country.
After all said and done, it is laudable that this day, June 12, is given a place of recognition in the history of Nigeria as Democracy Day after 19 years of Civil Rule.
We celebrate today June 12 in the loving memory and honour of an icon who paid the supreme price and other patriots who either died, jailed or hauled into exile in the struggle for a long-lasting democracy.
Published works of Chief M.K.O. Abiola include:
Legend of Our Time
Reparations: A Collection of Speeches, 1992
To Make Whole Again, 1990
M.K.O. ABIOLA on June 12 Mandate, 1993
Long live Democracy in Nigeria!
Long live Civil Societies in Nigeria!
Long live Lagos State!
Long live Federal Republic of Nigeria!
United We Stand.
Comrade Olawoyin Babatunde Oluseye
Coordinator, Committee of Intellectuals for Good Governance (C.I.G.G.)